Reggae/hip hop performer Rheon Elbourne believes a lack of emotional balance has given local dancehall music a bad rap.
Though immensely popular among young audiences both here in T&T and throughout the region, the local “zesser” Trinidad dancehall movement has been highly criticised for its overly violent and sexually explicit lyrical content.
Elbourne, a founding member of local hip hop group CYNX (create your next expression), says he can’t fault that viewpoint since his musical peers far too often focus on one aspect of expression: anger.
“We are artistes and we are all human, we don’t get up every day and feel happy, we don’t get up every day and feel angry or feel sad, but each and every day we go through a different emotion. I think a lot of the artistes are just going to the studio right now and just expressing in one way and they not balancing out the expressions. Therefore it’s kinda portraying an image of general badness or generally being angry. When the society looks at this it kinda reflects negatively on the artiste because it’s like hey is this all they can sing,” Elbourne said when he spoke to the Kictharee via WhatsApp on Thursday.
Digging deeper into the depths of different emotions will yield different messages, he said. The Kelly Village, Caroni-born performer says he regularly urges the artistes around him to strive towards displaying the full spectrum of their humanity.
“I talk to artistes around me and say we have to switch it up and show the people we are just human beings. You would get a love song right now and next song yuh might get a song about the ghetto and rising out and making money. The next song yuh might get a gun song because you feel aggressive and the next song might be a soca to wine and jam. But I don’t think the artiste placing enough emphasis on balancing the craft. We are releasing a lot of negative music about killing and drugs and you can’t blame the society for saying the things they wanna say when we’re saying the things we want to say,” he said.
Elbourne is actively living what he preaches. His hit singles “Zessame Street”, “Sometimes” and “Hold On” all leave the listener with food for thought. And he has managed to stay relevant on the party circuit with popular collaborations including: “Rize It” featuring reggae act Jahllano and “Pam Pam” featuring dancehall star Prince Swanny.
“I try to balance it as much as I can with different genres and I try to balance it with the story. It’s not just about killing and killing and killing it has to have a lot more than that. This is a gift given to us by the father and we have to use it wisely, as much as we using it for ourselves it have a greater purpose involved,” he said of his music.
Reaching out the youth
There is no greater purpose than providing sound guidance to those most in need of it, Elbourne said.
More than anything the poetic lyricist says he hopes the personal life experiences he expresses through his music can provide a bit of a road map to confused and lost teenagers and young adults.
“I just want the youths to listen and look on and see there is someone a little bit like them that faces trial and tribulations every day, but still enduring, still taking things a step at a time, still going through the emotions and still trying not to be overwhelmed by everything.
“Life is life and we have to face that every day. I just don’t want the youths and dem to give up because sometimes it does get tough and it does feel like dais it I cyah go no more, but sometimes is just to take a step back and look at the positive things in your life, then move forward again,” Elbourne said with deep sincerity.
It’s a message of hope and self-belief he wants to take the world over. Once borders are reopened Elbourne plans to continue to share his music with the world.
“I want to travel, I want to see different cultures, meet different peoples, I want to see how they live, hear stories about their lives and be part of their cultures for a little while and see life through their eyes. Then I could recreate what I see, the energy I around through music and sing about what I saw when I went Dubai, or Guam, or China, or Japan, or Antarctica, that is life for me,” he said with a wide smile.
The ongoing global pandemic, however, has temporarily grounded those ambitions. Elbourne says he is using the time to work on his personal development both as a human and an artiste.
“I stay around some of my close brothers, the artistes, the producers, people who still in tune with the business. We all share the same ideas and always on the same vibes. Coping wise, when things get tough I check Jahllano, I check Jah Z Blaze, producers like Forbesy and I try to keep the music bubbling. I have my own set up at home as well so I record and try to keep my energies up,” he said.
As for his ultimate vision for himself personally Elbourne says no limits should be placed on human potential.
“There is no limit for me; every day is an opportunity to learn something new. Right now I’m at my full potential. I’m always at my full potential because I give my best every day. Tomorrow that potential might grow. For me it’s just about living and looking at life around me and just expressing it back through music,” he concluded.